A possible method to organize curiosity

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Gianantonio Me

A possible method to organize curiosity

1 Purpose of this wiki page

One of the most interesting issue in organizational change is curiosity. Curiosity is a natural trait of human beings. However, it does not drive organizational process by itself. It is important to find ways in order to organize curiosity in pro-active methods for a positive organizational change. The scope of this brief work is to propose like a possible method to organize curiosity a participatory approach in designing IT, especially in a crisis situation where IT can be seen as a major driver in the ongoing processes. An interesting case study taken from literature will be used as a support for the idea that cooperative work can direct curiosity towards new combination for organizational change. Keywords: Adaptive cycle, Curiosity , Ecological Systems, Crisis, Organizational Change.

2. Short Literature review

This work explore the case of The Bibliothèque Nationale de France (National Library of France, BNF). This case is analyzed in Crisis as change strategy in public organizations by Claude Rochet, Olivier Keramidas and Lugdivine Bout International Review of Administrative Sciences 2008 74: 65. For a complete review of this article seeCrisis as change strategy in public organizations

3. Analysis of data

The authors refer to the Gunderson and Holling model. In order to use a better fitting model for an organizational context the first step in the analysis was , from the original case study presented by the authors, found a new position in the adaptive cycle model. First of all, we have to take in account that organizations in Public Sector are often characterized by a strong equilibrium and they appears as change resistant. One interesting concept is the «iron cage» of bureaucracy. The public sector’s organizations comply the Weber’s legal-rational model , which describe bureaucracy as hierarchical , rule enforcing, impersonal in the application of law, and constituted by members with specialized technical knowledge of rules and procedures. Another point is related to Organizational culture in public sector System of rational rules, procedures, structured hierarchies, formalized decision making processes and advancement based on expertise. The predominance of equilibrium results in stability and predictability , that are considered main characteristic for a successful mangement . In the case of National Library of France they experienced a phase of ‘creative destruction’, called Ω in the Holling model – according to Schumpeter. The Schumpeterian process of innovation and creative destruction is based on the assumption that Technology is a major force in the capitalist process of creative destruction. However, in this case the key difference, underlined by the authors, is the crisis is used as a tool to create organizational change. (see wiki page).The National Library of France (from now BNF) is a quite young French organization. According the author the equilibrium phase was characterized by political ambition and prestige issues. This model of activity was not focused on social value and functionality at all. The introduction of a new information systems caused a crisis. That system was designed without taking in account the organizational context and workers practice. The IS designed was a classical case of “technological sophistication” and a case of “designed to fail”. This situation pushed the organization on the verge of a total failure. A general strike by exasperated workers gave to the organization a new opportunity. Instead to decide for new investment, the only way to survive was to push/keep in a pro-active way the organization into the crisis using the crisis itself like a pretext for change. A IT crisis was turned in a institutional crisis. In place of a new information system, the new management opted for the same IT solution but with a totally different implementation strategy. The strategy in order to emerge from the crisis was based on a high level of openness towards all stakeholders involved . The participative nature of this process, conducted with both bottom-up and top-down strategy, contributed to destroy the imagine of political and technical arrogance imagine of the BNF. It is important to say that the new combination does not change anything in cost. Simply, the IS introduction was a stimulating factor for an organizational change, changing the architecture of BNF creating social value.

Fig. 1 – The BNF in the adaptive cycle

4. Conclusion : in search of curiosity

The authors do not mention curiosity at all. However, it is possible to find among the lines some direction of analysis related to curiosity. First of all, the IS project was based on a bottom-up design. This means that the manager responsible for this project never went beyond his desk. Curiosity is an attitude that challenges us in order to explore other bodies of knowledge and practices. It is not just innovation. Curiosity begins in our tendency to go beyond the knowledge that we already have. In this case, the participative strategy adopted by the new management can bee seen as a curious behavior. The openness towards all the stakeholders and issues (from the needs of users to the management, from the terms of service to the internal organizational culture differences) can been see as a cue of curiosity. Consequently The starting point , for a systematic analysis, is that a cooperative approaches is based on curiosity. In this case curiosity becomes the desire to know more about others, and the communication among the actors involved satisfy and increase curiosity itself. Without enter in detail, we can use as an example participatory design. In the literature there is a quite pretty example: In PD (Participatory design), a curiosity virtuoso is open towards other people and their experiences, and is able to empathize with other people, [..] especially during the process of exploring and articulating the problem.[..] In PD, one needs the virtue of cooperative curiosity in order to empathize with other people with different perspectives and roles and to engage in mutual learning, so that curiosity occurs in-between people—rather that within one person, […] (from Cooperation, Curiosity and Creativity as Virtues in Participatory Design Marc Steen DESIRE'11, October 19-21, 2011, Eindhoven, the Netherlands) The conclusion is an hypothesis that cooperation (mutual learning, or participatory methodologies, i. e. PD ) can be seen as a pro-active method to organize curiosity, especially in crisis situation. This method can create resilience.

Contributors

Gianantonio Me